The Outlaw Ocean: Reports on modern-day #slavery at sea

sea slavery 4 New York Times Reporter Ian Urbina has contacted me to bring attention to his investigative research on the work of seafarers globally and the human rights and labor abuses they face on the high seas. As recent reports in particular from Southeast Asia have highlighted, many of these victims of abuse are migrant workers. The series of reports by Urbina runs under the title “The Outlaw Ocean” and can be found at the links below:

Two stories might be of particular interest to researchers on migration, human trafficking and forced labour.

This is how Ian Urbian introduces the first one:

“When Eril Andrade came back from sea in a coffin his body was covered in bruises and cuts, and he was missing an eye and his pancreas. The handwritten note from his captain said he died in his sleep.

For local Filipino police investigators though the real mystery came when they realized that for over two decades thousands of other men from the Philippines and a half dozen other countries had been similarly recruited by a Singapore-based manning agency under false promises, dispatched to sea sometimes for years on notoriously violent and dangerous Taiwanese tuna longliners, then sent back home, often without pay. How could a firm like this operate with such impunity?

This next installment in The Outlaw Ocean series looks at the little-known industry of maritime manning agencies which supplies the crews working on most of the world’s ships. We reported from Taipei, Cape Town, and Singapore but especially in the Philippines which produces roughly a quarter of seafarers globally. I focused on one firm in particular, Step Up Marine Enterprise, which recruited Mr. Andrade and has had an especially egregious track record of human trafficking over the years.”

You can find the full report here:


The second one is called “’Sea Slaves’: Forced Labor for Cheap Fish” and addresses abuses of migrant fishermen, mostly from Cambodia and Myanmar, in Thailand:

There is also a short piece about efforts by lawyers, lawmakers, companies and others to begin confronting growing concerns about sea slavery.


Here are some further links:

Stowaways and Crime Aboard a Scofflaw Ship

Murder at Sea, Captured on Video but Killers Go Free

A podcast:


Picture above Copyright Adam Dean for the New York Times by permission of Ian Urbina

About Stefan Rother

Lecturer and Researcher at the Department of Political Science, University of Freiburg -- Freelance journalist -- You can find my CV at the links below:
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